As work truck fleets look to ward off a downturn in consumer demand, challenges with driver and technician retention are even more important to business continuity.
Luckily, fleets have vehicle performance data in their computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) or enterprise asset management (EAM) software. When viewed, organized, and presented through predictive maintenance analytics, fleet management can realize the potential of their data in fleet operations and personnel management.
The American Trucking Association (ATA) reported that the shortage of drivers currently stands at 80,000, which it expects to increase to 100,000 by 2023 and could even exceed 160,000 by 2028. The industry has had to think outside the box when it comes to ushering more job-seekers into cabs, tapping new sources of drivers in younger people, foreign workers, and women.
These recruitment avenues hold potential for fleets to beef up their ranks of drivers. Still, they face challenges with retention. Churn is also hitting record highs. In a recent survey, large truckload carriers posted an annualized turnover of 90%. Smaller truckload carriers saw 70% of their drivers leave this past year.
While turnover is still lower for work truck fleets, concerns for drivers are similar and just as persistent. Many drivers attribute low satisfaction to poor pay, lack of professional development, job conditions, work-life balance, and frustration with management and dispatchers. Work truck fleets that promise and deliver greater vehicle uptime are an appealing destination for employees switching companies. They’re also an attractive place to build a long-term career.
Though the employee satisfaction and retention question tends to dominate conversations about personnel management in the industry, fleets have another significant shortage on their hands in technicians. Maintenance teams keep vehicles and drivers on the road, especially as fleets have had to push back procurement cycles and deal with supply chain delays for spare parts.
Despite the importance of maintenance teams to supply chain management, the industry is in need of more technicians. To keep up with the wave of experienced technicians retiring and to meet the growing demand for diesel maintenance, the industry should add 75,000 new diesel technicians by 2024 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Interest in technician roles hasn’t matched the need. Technical schools are only graduating around 3,500 diesel technicians each year. Community colleges and larger fleets have collaborated on training programs for technicians, but to little avail.
Some diesel technicians who break into the industry are not sticking around long—not just at their company, but in the industry as a whole. A survey from Automotive Survey Excellence (ASE), the accrediting body for diesel technicians for high schools and post-secondary institutions, reported that 42% of new diesel technicians left the field within two years.
In CMMS and EAM systems there’s data that, when filtered through predictive maintenance analytics, provides fleet managers and technicians with the ability to catch and prevent impending issues on their vehicles. Advanced visibility permits fleets to better plan their activities on a day-to-day basis, including vehicle usage, load assignments, diagnostics, and repairs.
Backed by predictive maintenance, fleets can improve vehicle uptime, reduce unplanned downtime, and catch catastrophic issues on their vehicles before they result in a tow. Greater uptime goes a long way, especially for drivers and technicians.
Employee frustrations with fleet reliability, both for drivers and technicians, can be mitigated with predictive maintenance analytics.
By catching issues early and prioritizing maintenance when it is sensible for fleet and shop operations, fleets can bring greater uptime to their fleet through smarter maintenance. Customers receive better service from a more reliable fleet. It also allows work truck fleets to be a competitive employer and to remain a compelling place for people to work for the long term.
Here are three ways that predictive maintenance helps work truck fleets with personnel management:
1. Greater Uptime and Reliability for Drivers
Vehicles and drivers spend less time in the shop with the aid of predictive maintenance. That translates into more time out on the road. For drivers in work truck fleets, greater reliability addresses some of their major concerns: safety out on the road, on-highway performance, and delivering superior customer service.
2. More Regularity in Repair Shop Operations
With more planning through predictive maintenance comes less unexpected issues that arise in the shop. Technicians and fleet managers can get ahead of repairs and bundle multiple vehicle issues where it makes sense for the business. Bringing this stability to the shop creates more regularity and expectation. It allows technicians to be more efficient on the job.
3. Clear Path to Improvement Opportunities
From a fleet-wide view, predictive maintenance uncovers opportunities for improvement in vehicle maintenance and procurement. With near-term planning, analytics on common failures and the spare parts ensures the parts inventory meets maintenance needs. For long-term fleet planning like procurement cycles, fleets can use predictive maintenance analytics to evaluate original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), assets, parts, and shops by performance and cost. This overhead, data-backed view of fleet operations is a vantage point that work truck fleets can adopt to make headway on enterprise-wide initiatives for improvement.
Work truck fleets have their work cut out for them when it comes to keeping their people on board and satisfied, let alone their customers. People want to grow with their employer, provided it offers the opportunities to do so. Technology and digital tools such as predictive maintenance software promote professional development and drive safety, efficiency, and satisfaction across the business—from management to employee and customer.
By leveraging the value of their data through predictive maintenance, work-truck fleets can build out reliability in their operations, deliver on their customer commitments, and empower their people to make smarter decisions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Norman Thomas is a fleet business consultant at Uptake, a Chicago-based provider of industrial intelligence. Find out more, visit www.uptake.com.